The Historic Home of the Lexington Diner

Lexington Diner in the ca. 1806 Warfield Building. Author's Collection.
Lexington Diner on Urbanspoon
Earlier this year, the Lexington Diner opened in the historic Dr. Walter Warfield Building at the southeast corner of Short and Upper streets. The Diner changed the culinary landscape of the corner as it abandoned the perfunctory diner fare that had been served from the site for decades. By raising standards and including locally raised ingredients and homemade dishes, the Lexington Diner has become a favorite for those living and working downtown.

It historic location is directly across from the old courthouse in the Dr. Walter Warfield Building which was built around 1806.

Dr. Warfield was a noted surgeon from the Revolutionary War from Maryland who ultimately settled in the Bluegrass as a "highly esteemed and excellent citizen." As with any "esteemed and excellent citizen" of the day, Warfield amassed significant land holdings in the region.

From his sister-in-law, Elizabeth Christian Dickerson, Warfield purchased 1,000 acres in 1805. This land was situated in what is now both Fayette and Scott counties. Ms. Dickerson had inherited the land from her father (William Christian) in 1786; he had acquired the land (and 8,000 other acres) by grant from Virginia Governor Patrick Henry in 1779. After being sold, inherited, and divided, these acres have had a storied history with storied names in the equine industry. Today, however, much of Warfield's acreage is now owned by the Commonwealth of Kentucky as part of the Kentucky Horse Park.
Warfield Building through the lens of Asa Chinn, ca. 1920-21. NRHP.
Downtown, Dr. Warfield had built a two-story brick building in the late-Georgian style. An 1870 remodel added the notable Mansard roof and dormers creating a third-story. A number of changes through the years have made it difficult to imagine the building's original appearance, but some clues linger. The stone belt-course between the first and second floors, the lovely keystones over the second-story windows, and a sliver of the original stone water-table remains between the main entrance and the plain shop window.

Over the years, the building has had many varying occupants. For those who have worked downtown for years, the corner diner has taken many names. In the 1930s, it was Southern Brothers. In the 1940s, Wallace Brothers. For many years, it was A Family Affair and, more recently, it housed Della's Diner.

The National Register listing also includes 148 West Short Street, a mid-19th century Greek Revival with gable roof and storefronts. Two story with 9 bays, a number of shops have called the building home for many, many years. The Dr. Walter Warfield Building has been and continues to be central to Lexington's center of commerce.

An earlier version of this post was published in April 2012 when Della's Diner occupied the spot.